By KEVIN HARRIS
NEW ALBANY – On May 20 at Mt. Tabor Field, the New Albany Bulldogs reclaimed a significant piece of hardware.
New Albany thumped North Harrison 17-4 in five innings to capture the final game of the Stan Sajko Invitational – the Bulldogs’ annual tournament that began in 1962. The tournament had a three-team, round-robin format this year with Corydon Central being the third squad.
“Overall, it was a pretty good day,” Bulldogs’ head coach Chris McIntyre said. “We swung the bats well. We were pretty loose at the plate, which was good to see.”
New Albany’s victory over the Cougars (9-13) gave it the Sajko Invite title with a 2-0 tournament record. It was the 13th consecutive time the Bulldogs (15-9) have claimed the crown when the tournament was played. The Sajko Invitational got canceled because of rain last year.
New Albany won the tournament opener on May 19 against Corydon 12-2 in six innings. In the second game May 20, Harrison County rival North Harrison downed the Panthers (13-11) 15-6.
The tournament is named after the legendary Sajko, who was the tournament founder and former New Albany head baseball coach and athletic director. When Sajko began the tourney in 1962, it was named the New Albany Invitational.
Sajko passed away in 2008. He was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.
The Sajko Invitational was a four-team tourney in recent years, but defending Class 2A state champion Providence dropped out of the tournament this year.
McIntyre says it is essential that the Sajko Invite gets a fourth team in the future.
“Only having three teams loses a little bit of its tournament-type feeling,” McIntyre said. “We’ve got to get another team in here and make it have a little more tournament feeling to it. It probably doesn’t feel quite the same as it normally does when it has four teams in it.”
Leading 2-1 after 2 ½ innings, the Bulldogs turned the final game into a blowout versus North Harrison with five runs in the third and 10 in the fourth to go up 17-1. The Cougars plated three runs in the top of the fifth.
New Albany junior Ryan Robison was a single away from the cycle. He went 3-for-3 with a double, a triple and a first-inning solo home run. Robison ended up with four RBIs.
Teammate Chase Rudy was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. Bulldog freshman Andrew Ricketts drove in three runs, while New Albany’s Jordan Cooper and Steven Thom each had two RBIs.
New Albany starter Owen Tanksley got the victory, improving his record to 3-1. The sophomore left-hander pitched four innings, yielding a run (earned) on four hits. Tanksley recorded three strikeouts and three walks. The Bulldogs committed one error.
“We were pretty solid,” McIntyre said. “Defensively, we were pretty clean. Owen struggled a little bit with his control. We helped him out a little bit with a double play early in the game when it was still close.”
North Harrison starter Max Flock was the losing pitcher, while collecting two RBIs at the plate.
STAN SAJKO INVITATIONAL
NEW ALBANY 17, NORTH HARRISON 4, 5 INNINGS
N. Harrison 100 03- 4 7 4
New Albany 115 (10)x-17 14 1
W – Owen Tanksley (3-1). L – Max Flock. 2B – Paul Moberly (NH), Jake Morin (NH), Dylan Clark (NA), Chase Rudy (NA), Ryan Robison (NA), Jordan Cooper (NA). 3B – Robison (NA). HR – Robison (NA).
Records – New Albany 15-9, North Harrison 9-13.